Working with Zirconium

Information on Zirconium and Zirconium Ceramics. Please.

I have only been a member of Ganoksin for a short time and have
contributed to a couple of ‘threads’. I intend to help where I can in
the future.

I have been doing a lot of work with Titanium over the last thirty
years, mainly in conjunction with 18ct golds and silver.

I have wanted to make some of my designs in zirconium and making it
black. There is one unusual ring I want to make, namely my four coil
riveted ring. See ‘Galleries’

I have scanned the archives of ‘Ganoksin’ to no avail.

I would appreciate it if someone would point me towards technical
papers dealing with the uses of and availability of Zirconium and
Zirconium Ceramics,

David Cruickshank


zirconium metal is used for inexpensive [compared to platinum]
crucibles and can be worked like nickel, ie: softer than steels but
harder than precious metals. Zirconia can be had as sintered
ceramics, crystalline material etc and is very tough. It is very
hard to work, even with diamond tools unless you are cutting single
crystal cubic zirconia. It does have one flaw though-it goes through
a phase change at 60 deg C and expands a little so if you re using
large pieces of it in a variable temperature environment then it may
give problems. This is why it doesnt make a great thermal barrier
coating material without the addition of MgO or Yttria. Cubic
zirconia can be had for lapidary purposes quite cheaply in a wide
range of colours, the ceramics are invariably white or off-white and
although inexpensive are difficulty to get hold of for private
individuals as technical ceramics companies want to sell it in high
value quantities to processors. I hope this helps you a little, try for CZ rough and someone like Morgan
Crucible for the technical ceramics.

Nick Royall

Zirconium is a difficult metal to work with. I have been using it in
jewelry for a couple of years now. It is quite stiff even when fully
annealed, much more so than titanium. It is also difficult to find
and expensive to purchase. There is only one manufacturer of it in
the US, Wah Chang in Oregon. Expect to pay 40-60 dollars per pound
and minimum orders are a few thousand dollars if ordered from them.
Some other vendors have it but at a significant markup. However the
biggest difficulty with it is that it is pyrophoric, it will ignite
very easily when finely divided (sawdust, turnings, chips) when
machining it must be cut with flood coolant so it doesn’t ignite. It
is very difficult to put out a zirconium fire.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts